Preview: Bellator 229 ‘Koreshkov vs. Larkin’

Koreshkov vs. Larkin

By Keith Shillan Oct 3, 2019

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After the loaded Bellator 228 card was put in the books, the promotion returns with another night of action from the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California. Bellator 229 is headlined by Andrey Koreshkov and Lorenz Larkin in a bout jockeying for position in the welterweight title picture. The co-main event pits veterans Saad Awad and Goiti Yamauchi in a pivotal lightweight clash. The remainder of the main card sees the undefeated Keri Melendez getting her toughest test to date in Mandy Polk and seasoned strikers Joe Schilling and Tony Johnson ready to exchange pleasantries.

Here is a closer look at the main card of Bellator 229:

Andrey Koreshkov vs. Lorenz Larkin

After an early exit from the Bellator MMA welterweight grand prix, former champion Koreshkov outdueled Mike Jasper over the duration of their 15-minute bout to win a unanimous decision. The Russian attempts to follow up on the win and regain some of his past success that saw him beat the likes of Chidi Njokuanki, Benson Henderson, Douglas Lima, Lyman Good and Derrick Krantz with another victory on Friday. Despite failing at his bid to regain the welterweight crown in the GP, the Russian still flaunts an impressive 22-3 record -- only falling short to Lima (twice) and Ben Askren. The Spartan is a well-rounded fighter who can win no matter where the fight takes place. Koreshkov is a savvy striker, who uses elusive footwork and head movement to avoid damage and set up his own offense. He uses his jab as a range finder to set up his power shots, which include spinning backfists and back kicks. The 29-year-old is comfortable from fighting out of both the orthodox and southpaw stance. His mixes in a large arsenal of kicks with punches well. His biggest weakness on the feet is his lack of one-punch, fight-ending power. Koreshkov is a good wrestler, who isn’t very explosive on his entries but makes up for it by being relentless in his pursuit of the takedown. If he can’t shoot in on his opponent’s hips, he looks for bodylock takedowns from the clinch. Once on top, Koreshkov attempts to punish his foes with ground and pound instead of looking for a submission; he hasn’t won by sub in just under eight years. The Russian slowed down in his five-round fight against Lima in the GP, which likely won’t be an issue here as the match is only three rounds.

Larkin was once considered a prized free-agent acquisition for Bellator, but since joining the organizational ranks he has fallen short of the expectations. Prior to joining the promotion, “The Monsoon” had defeated the likes of Robbie Lawler, Santiago Ponzinibbio, Neil Magny and Jorge Masvidal, but has only gone 2-2 in his stint with Bellator. He might be finding some traction though, as his two wins came in his last two bouts. Larkin is a muay Thai style striker, staying light on his feet and likes to bounce in and out of range. Like Koreshkov, the California native switches stances and mixes his kicks in well with punches. He uses a lot of low kicks and teep kicks to set up his quick hands. His straight right is accurate and his best tool. The veteran fighter doesn’t get enough credit for his power as he has 11 career TKO/KO with eight of them coming in the opening round. He does tend to focus on landing the perfect blow, which essentially leads him to throwing single strikes at a time. The Millenia MMA team member isn’t much of a threat in the offensive wrestling department and his takedown defense has been a bit of an Achilles heel. Larkin also can be a slow starter, but picks up the action as the fight moves along.

While this contest isn’t garnering much publicity, it is a fantastic stylistic matchup. Larkin likely has a slight advantage on the feet as long as Koreshkov doesn’t find a landing spot for his spinning attacks. However, Koreshkov has a high fight IQ and will purposely look to exploit a weakness. Unless Larkin has improved his defensive wrestling, I could see him being forced to fight off grappling for the entire fight. The bout will be close, but I believe the Russian’s takedowns will be the difference in the affair. Koreshkov by unanimous decision.

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